Donors, Governments Pledge $4.3 Billion for Child Immunizations at GAVI Event

June 15, 2011 By Jake Moy

This past Monday, a group of international private and public donors pledged $4.3 billion for child immunizations in the world’s neediest countries. The group of prime ministers, high-level officials, philanthropists, UN Agency heads, and business leaders convened in London for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization’s (GAVI) first pledging conference. The fundraising efforts were spearheaded by Britain ($1.3 billion pledged) and Gates Foundation Co-Chairman Bill Gates ($1 billion pledged over the next five years), collectively surpassing GAVI’s initial target of $3.7 billion. The funding commitments are expected to enable 250 million child vaccinations against deadly diseases such as pneumonia and diarrheal illness by 2015.

“This is absolutely human generosity at its finest,” said Gates in a news statement following the event. “For the first time in history, children in developing countries will receive the same vaccines against diarrhea and pneumonia as children in rich countries.”

In advance of the London Conference, British Prime Minister, David Cameron argued there is a moral responsibility to protect children, citing Britain’s unique position to eradicate “entirely preventable” deaths.  “I don’t believe it would be right to ignore the difference we can make, turn inwards solely to our own problems and effectively balance our books while breaking our promises to the world’s poorest,” stated Cameron. “Instead, we should step up, deliver on our promises to the world’s poorest and help save millions of lives.”

The World Health Organization estimates that immunizations save 2.5 million deaths every year and is one of the most cost-effective public health techniques. However, it also estimates that over 1 million infants and young children die yearly from pneumococcal disease and rotavirus diarrhea, two of GAVI’s primary vaccination targets.

Child immunizations are both life-saving and serve a key role in development and economic growth. Promoting childhood health both significantly reduces treatment costs and prevents the substantial productivity losses stemming from illness. A recent series of studies estimates that if 90 percent of children in GAVI supported countries were fully immunized, it would produce economic benefits of $231 billion over the next ten years.

USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, has stated that “Vaccines are the best public health investment we can make.” American investments in immunization program are continuing to grow, and aim to save 4 million children over the next five years. The U.S. government has pledged $90 million to GAVI, although budget negotiations on Capitol Hill remain ongoing.